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NBN mulling introducing 100/20Mbps plans

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NBN finally has a 50Mbps or quicker majority network
People will move to higher speeds on the National Broadband Network if its prices are cut.

As part of a consultation process over its wholesale pricing, the National Broadband Network (NBN) is mulling the introduction of 100/20Mbps plans.

At the 100Mbps speed tier, NBN currently offers 100/40Mbps plans.

“The new speed tier recognises that most residential customers download far more than they upload and a new product that prioritises download with an associated new wholesale bundle discount may help them to avoid paying a price premium for relatively high upload speeds that most customers do not use or require,” the company said in a statement.

NBN is set to boost the amount of included Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC), a bandwidth constraint that the wholesaler uses to drive revenue, on its 100Mbps plans from 2.5Mbps to 3Mbps from September 2019. The company also said it would keep its existing dimension-based discounts in place until 30 June next year, to provide certainty as it consults.

The company responsible for deploying the NBN across Australia provided a consultation paper to 50 of its retailers, as well as some interest groups, asking for feedback on wholesale pricing and discounting arrangements that would increase the use of the NBN among “under-represented, price-sensitive” consumers. Highlighted as fitting this demographic were low-income and older Australians.

“As part of this process, we’ll be balancing the economics of our wholesale pricing structure with the commercial imperatives of RSPs, and the very reasonable expectations of residential and business customers around product affordability and choice,” NBN chief customer officer residential Brad Whitcomb said.

“We want to work with RSPs to find solutions to bring the benefits of high-speed broadband to more customers, particular those for whom price is a major consideration.”

The consultation will also look at getting consumers onto higher speeds, boosting support for retailers, creating a schedule for further consultation, and “making it simple and easy for RSPs to do business with NBN Co”, the government-owned wholesaler said.

According to the latest instalment of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Wholesale Market Indicators Report, to the end of March, more than half of all NBN customers are now on a 50Mbps plan, after the network crossed the threshold of having a majority of customers on 50Mbps and 100Mbps plans last quarter.

Between the December and March quarters, over 166,000 people moved off 12/1Mbps plans with the total dipping just below 1 million, while 220,000 more have 25/5Mbps plans taking the total to 1.14 million, and 336,000 premises now have 50Mbps plans that puts the most popular plan at 2.62 million customers.

“Although the number of consumers on [12Mbps] plans has dropped, they still account for a significant number of NBN users,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said last month.

“We would be concerned if the options to acquire entry level plans declined, either through availability or higher prices. Indeed, we continue to have concerns about the impact of NBN pricing changes on affordability of entry level plans for those consumers who only require a basic service.”

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2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8 Convertible Review – Heritage only goes so far

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Heritage can be a lodestar or it can be a crippling anchor holding you back, and few cars illustrate that quite so well as the Corvette. America’s homegrown sports car star has the history, sure, but it’s fair to say that in its last few generations it’s felt more “quarterback gone to seed” than all-out contender. The 2020 Corvette Stingray changes that.

Chevrolet didn’t set itself a small challenge there, either. Mid-engined for the first time, more capable of directly competing with the Porsche 911 that Corvette fans always used to say their car rivaled, and to which the rest of us politely nodded and smiled and hoped they’d change the subject. It couldn’t just be a big engine and a comparatively small price any more.

The result is a performance car that feels shaped by both demands for speed and practicality; built to a price and with hints of racing game and “show it off in the parking lot” whiz-bang gimmickry. Cold, hard pragmatism butting up against that omnipresent recognition that a Corvette has to feel like a Corvette else, really, what’s the point?

That’s a lot of directions to be pulled in, and it could’ve left the Corvette C8 a deep disappointment. The fact that it isn’t, well, that’s something of a surprise.

Style-wise, it’s one of those cars which is far more successful in person than on the screen. Sure, it feels like Chevrolet’s designers have spread their inspiration net wide, and there are some angles where the C8 is a little ungainly. The rear decklid is particularly exaggerated – though in this convertible form it hides a trick folding metal roof as well as a fairly sizable trunk – while the vents just aft of the doors look more ungainly the longer you look at them and the rear is somewhat busy. I wouldn’t have chosen “Accelerate Yellow” paint, either; the Corvette doesn’t need to do quite so much work to stand out.

Pricing kicks off at $66,400 (plus $1,095 destination) for the drop-top, though it’s hard to imagine most C8 buyers stopping there. The standard car isn’t poorly equipped, but the $11,450 3LT package upgrades the infotainment, adds a Bose audio system, a head-up display, GT2 bucket seats with heating, ventilation, and power bolsters, the Performance Data Recorder that now captures both 1080p footage from the track and everyday video of your trip to Costco. It also throws in a front curb-view camera – its view summoned with a mercifully easy to locate button – and must-haves like blind spot warnings and rear cross traffic alerts.

I say “must haves” because rear visibility is fairly dire, and side visibility isn’t all that grand either. The rear spoiler that comes as part of the $5,000 Z51 Performance Package doesn’t help with sight-lines but it sure looks good. The rest of the package is more focused on speed, with special suspension, brakes, an electronic limited slip differential, high-performance tires, a special exhaust and rear axle ratio, and a heavy-duty cooling system.

$1,895 adds Magnetic Ride Control, and it’s an option every Corvette buyer should check off. Chevrolet’s trick dampers can adjust the viscosity of the fluid inside, crisping things up for coccyx-punishing firmness or mellowing out for long-distance cruising. It’s suspension witchcraft and more than worth the money, as is the $1,495 front lift system which can either be triggered manually or programmed to automatically raise the nose for the same tricky incline every time.

What every Corvette Stingray has at the moment is the same LT2 6.2-liter V8 engine, good for 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. The Z51 package nudges those up to 495 hp and 470 lb-ft, and trims the 0-60 mph time to 2.9 seconds. There’s no manual option – that’s part of Chevy’s aforementioned pragmatism, blaming traditionally low sales of stick shifts even if purists say they’re non-negotiable – only an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters.

The engine’s in the middle, and it’s the rear wheels that are driven. There’s been plenty of chatter about AWD and hybrid options, but for the moment the C8 is keeping things simple. Simple and effective, mind.

It goes fast, of course. In a straight line, the Stingray leaps ahead like a beast scalded, monstrously quick and with a soundtrack to match. I’m not typically a convertible fan, but the drop-top C8 allows you to lower the rear glass window independently, letting in more of the V8 howl.

Six drive modes span inclement weather through to full-on track use, and there are all manner of traction settings to tinker with if you dig through the menus. The sluggish drive mode dial isn’t really set up for fast spinning through to take advantage of an unexpectedly rewarding road, mind; better to stab the “Z” button on the wheel, which you can preconfigure with your pick of the settings.

Speaking of the wheel, Chevrolet’s decision to fit a weirdly rectangular one with droopy-jowl spokes feels like another of those misguided gaming-inspired decisions. It’s thick-rimmed and – in 3LT form – heated, while $595 gives it a sueded microfiber wrap that’s going to one day be a time capsule of every greasy palm that gripped it. Does the shape help? Probably not.

The Corvette C8 does, at least, respond well to it. Indeed cornering is one of the Chevy’s key charms, even with some sensible understeer dialed in from the factory. There’s a predictable linearity to it, combined with a sharpness of turn-in that leaves things feeling just plain playful. Factor in ridiculous levels of grip and little in the way of body roll, and it becomes abundantly clear that this thing was tuned for fun.

The same can be said for the gearbox. Sure, it’s a little lacking in slush at low speeds, but I’ll stomach the jerkiness there in return for the snappy response to the paddles (or, if you’re feeling lazy, eager willingness to downshift when you push on in auto mode). Switch to Tour, meanwhile, and the engine/transmission/dampers combo is unexpectedly refined. This needn’t be just your weekend plaything.

There’s room for two inside, though things feel snug. Part of that is pure dimensions, and part of that is Chevrolet’s packaging. The high center console – particularly the long ski-slope of HVAC buttons cascading confusingly down between driver and passenger – could easily leave larger occupants feeling claustrophobic.

All C8’s get an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen within easy reach, and a 12-inch driver display with different gauge displays depending on which mode you’re in. It feels, frankly, light years ahead of the old Corvette, though you’ll need the 2021 model year car to get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rather than their wired counterparts.

What stands out, though, is just how much the C8 feels focused on the pleasure of actually driving. For all the new platform, and the fancier tech, and the slick hard-top convertible roof, that 6.2-liter V8 is the star here. When you’re cruising, it’s burbling happily; push harder, and it serenades you like only an eight-cylinder can, while still delivering the urgency that rivals have turned to smaller, turbocharged engines to deliver.

It’s fun that’s contagious, too. Few cars I’ve been in recently have turned so many heads, and prompted so many questions, as the Corvette C8. People love this car, and it feels like everyone has a ‘Vette story of their own to share in turn.

Factor in time for those conversations, then, and for being more watchful than you might expect in a modern vehicle. Chevy doesn’t offer adaptive cruise control, nor lane-keeping assistance, and there’s no automatic emergency braking. Rear cross-traffic alerts were added for the MY21 C8.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Verdict

Not having grown up in the US, sometimes the charms of Americana are lost on me. The old Corvette was a good example of that: I knew people loved it, I just could never quite figure out why. The good news is the Corvette C8 isn’t just playing to the home crowd.

Maybe it’s the personality it brings to the table, or the usability. Some sports cars leave you wary of their power or temperament, but like anything with a Chevrolet badge on the hood, the Corvette doesn’t demand blood sacrifice in order to get the job done.

Value is subjective, of course. No, this particular $93,660 Corvette isn’t cheap but, given the sort of cars it competes so strongly with, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t punch above its weight. I’d keep the Z51 package and the MagneRide, and maybe compromise on the 2LT trim to keep the overall sticker down, but even if you maxed it out and made the dealer’s day you’re still well under the 911 and even McLaren Sport Series I think the ‘Vette can spar with.

History, and heritage, can be great. At their best they set expectations, just as long as you avoid falling into the same old ruts as before. While what’s new about the Corvette C8 is special, then, it’s how Chevrolet maintains its old values like attainability and everyday usability that really makes this car shine.

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Volvo created the “ultimate driving simulator” using the latest gaming tech

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Engineers at Volvo have created what they call the ultimate driving simulator. The driving simulator wasn’t created for fun. Rather it was created to help them improve vehicle safety and autonomous driving technology. Volvo has a very long history of vehicle safety innovations.

The new ultimate driving simulator provides Volvo with groundbreaking mixed-reality simulation. The set up has a moving driving seat, steering wheel with haptic feedback, and a virtual reality headset. Volvo engineers say the driving simulator makes it hard to tell reality from simulation, which was precisely the point of building it.

The technology behind the driving simulator uses the real-time 3D development platform Unity and tech from a virtual and mixed reality company called Varjo. The simulator involves driving a real car on real roads combining life-like high definition 3D graphics with an augmented reality headset and a full-body Teslasuit providing feedback from a virtual world and monitoring bodily reactions.

The software and hardware allow Volvo engineers to simulate fewer traffic scenarios on a real test track while using a real car in complete safety. The system allows the engineers to gain important insights on the interaction between drivers and the vehicle to develop new safety, driver assistance, and autonomous driving features.

Test drivers can be exposed to imagined active safety and driver assistance features, upcoming autonomous drive user interfaces, future car models, and many other scenarios. The system can be used on a real test track road or in the test lab with fully customizable scenarios of endless variety. Volvo recently demonstrated its ultimate driving simulator, and the video can be seen above. Engineers note that when developing safety systems for vehicles, testing is critical, but testing the systems in the real world can be dangerous, time-consuming, and expensive. Moving the testing to the virtual world saves significant time and money.

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2022 Genesis GV70 will debut with innovative biometrics and rear-seat detection technology

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It seems the 2022 Genesis GV70 will offer more than just unprecedented luxury and good looks. According to the Korean Car Blog, the newest GV70 will feature an in-vehicle fingerprint-activated biometrics system and a new rear-seat detection radar sensor.

The Santa Fe SUV was among the first Hyundai vehicles to get in-vehicle fingerprint scanners, but the new system in the Genesis GV70 can do more than open the door or start the engine. The fingerprint sensor is located under the Start/Stop button and allows you to pay for fuel and parking via Genesis CarPay, and you can do it all without repeatedly entering confusing passwords.

It also functions in Valet Mode by hiding your phonebook and home address from the infotainment display. And since your biometric data is linked to the vehicle’s settings, you can open the door using the Genesis Connected App and start the engine using fingerprint recognition, all without using a smart key.

Also, touching the fingerprint sensor restores all customer information for the driver’s seat position, steering wheel orientation, latest navigation data, and the infotainment volume – all of which are stored with your fingerprint data.

The newest Genesis GV70 will also come with a sophisticated rear-seat detection system. This technology is nothing new. But again, Genesis is taking it further by utilizing a ceiling-mounted, ultra-sensitive radar sensor in place of a conventional ultrasonic sensor.

According to Genesis, the new radar sensor is more sensitive and more accurate in detecting subtle movements. It’s so keen, in fact, that Genesis claims it can detect the beating heart of a sleeping infant in the back seat.

The powerful sensor can read through non-metallic materials like blankets, clothes, seats, and even dog crates to detect your pets. The newest GV70 luxury crossover will be the first to get this innovative rear-seat reminder technology, while other Hyundai vehicles are expected to soon inherit this new tech.

The 2022 GV70 is the second SUV from Genesis after launching the GV80 this year. Based on the G70 sport-luxury sedan, the GV70 is the purest interpretation of the brand’s ‘Athletic Elegance’ design idiom.

The powertrain specifics are still forthcoming, but we’re expecting the new GV70 to have standard FWD and optional AWD with either a 2.5-liter turbo-four or a twin-turbo V6 motor. It will first go on sale in South Korea by this December, while the first U.S. deliveries arrive by mid-2021.

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